Leaving Fairbanks and heading south, the next major stop is Denali NP. This is a short drive—only about 125 miles. The small “tourist” town is just outside the National Park entrance. Get a campground outside the park.
I recommend you take the National Park guided tour one whole day. They offer bus tours ranging from a few hours up to all day inside the park (lunch included) and this is the only way to see it—you cannot drive any long distances into the park. We’ve been on the all-day tour twice. Once in a total downpour all day and once in great weather. Both times we saw lots of wildlife (the drivers know where the animals hang out) with great views and lots of information from the driver as tour guide.
We stay in a no-frills campground literally behind a row of tourist shops in Denali. It’s close to everything but there’s not much there except the RV park. Across the highway are a few of the cruise-line lodges (for those cruise-tour people). You can run around some in your car but there’s not many places you can go—the park itself is off limits to private vehicles so you are limited to the main highway.
One entertainment “thing” we will definitely do again and highly recommend… One of the cruise-line lodges puts on a dinner/show called “Cabin Night” and this is a great evening. You are seated at picnic tables with others, dinner (we had ribs and chicken) is served family style (all you can eat) to the table, they have a bar, and they put on a live show that’s sort of a satirical “History of Alaska.” It is well done, food is good, and a fun evening. There are other shows but this one is best!!! This show is so popular that you may want to call for tickets (reservations) to the show before you head down to Denali. About 3-4 days in Denali seems to be enough. If you are going directly to Anchorage from Denali, it’s only about 230 miles so you can easily do this in one day or boondock one night for a relaxing drive.
We always go to Talkeetna for a few days—a 145 mile trip from the Park. Leaving Denali going south, we always do a side trip to Talkeetna and stay a few days before getting to Anchorage. This is a “must stop” especially if you want a “flightseeing” tour around Mt. Denali (aka… Mt. McKinley) The flight is fascinating and highly recommended. Plus, landing on a glacier and a chance to walk around on gazillion-year-old ice is also equally fascinating and highly recommended. One common “unknown” is that Talkeetna is the “jumping off” place for mountain climbers. The flight services here are excellent and have the best prices. Plus, the Talkeetna flight services are the most experienced since they regularly fly in and land on glaciers to let the mountain climbers out. Finally, they are the cheapest for tourist flights including glacier landings. There is a nice busy campground here and will require reservations. Here’s how Denali looks during one of the flights…
Another “unknown” is that supposedly, Talkeetna is the town in Alaska they used as the model for that 1980’s TV sitcom (Northern Exposure). Personally, I hope not. I really like Talkeetna but hated that show!!! They occasionally do a “Moose Dropping” festival in Talkeetna and that is a very crowded weekend—but it doesn’t happen very often any more.
Actually, from Fairbanks to Anchorage will take about a week or slightly longer with 2-3 days in Denali, a night somewhere on the way to Talkeetna, 3-4 days in Talkeetna, and then on to Anchorage.